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Two good books

I recently read two pretty good books that are definitely worth a mention.

Liar’s Poker – Michael Lewis

I have been a Michael Lewis fan ever since I read his “The Big Short” that explained the way several people got rich during the housing-mortgage crash of several years ago. Since then, I have also read “The Blind Side” (which, I think everyone is familiar with via the movie) and “Boomerang,” in which he examines why the economies of countries like Greece, Iceland and Ireland crashed over the past several years.

“Liar’s Poker” was published in the 1980s and, in it, Lewis tells the story of his brief foray into the world of bond trading. As with Lewis’s other books, it is both enlightening and hysterically funny. Lewis has the ability to explain complex issues and be very entertaining at the same time. It’s a good story about some really crazy times.

Kill Shot – Vince Flynn

I’ve enjoyed Flynn’s novels since my cousin turned me on to him several years ago. Flynn’s main protagonist is CIA assassin Mitch Rapp. The books are almost a 21st century American version of Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels, but without Bond’s worldly sophistication or Fleming’s sometimes off-the-wall bad guys. Flynn initially wrote 10 Rapp novels that brought the story to the present day. Then for books 11 and 12, Flynn went back in time and wrote two (“American Assassin” and “Kill Shot”) that tell the story of Rapp’s recruitment, training and his first few assignments.

Flynn novels are pure adventure. There isn’t a subtle bone in his protagonist’s body. There are the good guys and the bad guys, and very little in between. Rapp is one of the good guys, and his stories pit him against his obvious enemies, usually Islamic terrorists, and sometimes the not so obvious — like American politicians.  And in Rapp’s world, the bad guys almost always get what they deserve.

In “Kill Shot,” Flynn tells the story of one of Rapp’s early “hits” that went bad and all the subsequent fall-out.

Flynn doesn’t write an intricate, slowly developing story like a Fredrick Forsyth.  But his novels are exciting, fun and difficult to put down. “Kill Shot” and the rest of Vince Flynn’s books won’t be remembered as great literature, but they sure an entertaining read.

Clancy’s newest not up to expectations

I just finished Tom Clancy’s latest book, Dead or Alive. I have always been a Tom Clancy fan, but I have to confess, I was not impressed with this latest effort, which was co-authored by Grant Blackwood. Maybe that was the problem.

I have been a big Clancy fan ever since he came out with his first big one, The Hunt for Red October. I have read all his fiction thrillers, and most of his non-fiction. I love his stuff. Maybe that’s why I was disappointed at his latest effort.

Clancy returns to the plot line and characters of his earlier book Teeth of the Tiger. As a matter of fact, I re-read Teeth before starting Dead or Alive, just to bring myself up to speed. The second book simply picks up right where Teeth left off.

The main characters, Brian and Dominic Caruso and Jack Ryan Jr. are back, working for the secretive terrorist-hunting organization known as “The Campus.” They are joined by old friends, John Clark and Ding Chavez.

This time the bad guys are working a complex scheme to launch a series of attacks on the US, and it’s up to the guys at “The Campus” to stop them.

Clancy likes to weave together different story lines — seemingly unrelated, but we all know better. (After all, if they weren’t related, they wouldn’t be in the book.) Then they come together to create the plot. However, the biggest problem with the book is that there are so many plotlines that develop so slowly, it is difficult for the reader to keep track of them all.

At least a couple of plotlines never do develop and apparently were inserted just to introduce characters or set the scene for the next book in the series. In one, an Army ranger, is accused of murder for what he did on the battlefield. This premise could be the basis of an entire novel in itself. Instead, the legal issue is dropped and the character is assumed into The Campus team. There were a lot of pages of narrative, just to introduce a new and not advance the main plot of the novel.

In another, Jack Ryan Sr. decides to run for president once again. This also just sets the scene for the next book because after he makes his decision to run, the authors drop the plot line. Ryan is last seen working on his autobiography.

For a true Clancy fan, it’s a good, but lengthy effort. However, if you would like to read a book with a similar plot, but tighter plot development and more compelling characters, try “The Afghan” by Fredrick Forsyth. It is simply outstanding.